BALL WATCH SERIALS
After the Ball Watch Co. moved from Cleveland, OH to Chicago, IL, their headquarters were located in the Garland Building in downtown Chicago. Ball used the Garland name for more than just watches. They had a jewelry line also called “Garland”. They started using the “Garland” name after they moved to Chicago in July 1906, listing the Railway Exchange, which was used as late as 1913. By 1914, their Chicago address was the Hayworth building, and by 1915, the Garland Building became their Chicago address. Ball ads during WWII listed only the Chicago address and also mentioned that “Garland” was a registered trademark (U. S. Patent Office) of the Ball Company.
Webster Clay Ball (October 6, 1847 – 1922) was a jeweler and watchmaker born in Fredericktown, Ohio. After a two-year apprenticeship to a jeweler, Ball settled in Cleveland, Ohio to join a jewelry store. When Standard Time was adopted in 1883, he was the first jeweler to use time signals from the United States Naval Observatory, bringing accurate time to Cleveland.
In 1891 there was a collision between Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway trains at Kipton, Ohio, which occurred because an engineer’s watch had stopped. The railroad officials commissioned Webb C. Ball as their Chief Time Inspector, in order to establish precision standards and a reliable timepiece inspection system for railroad chronometers.
He established strict guidelines for the manufacturing of sturdy, reliable precision timepieces, including resistance to magnetism, reliability of time keeping in 5 positions, isochronism, power reserve and dial arrangement, accompanied with record keeping of the reliability of the watch on each regular inspection.
His original jewelry business in Cleveland grew into the Ball Watch Company (currently headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland), which used other watch companies’ movements, perfecting them and then reselling them. Ball Watch Company also ordered watches complete from other watch companies. Ball used movements from the top American manufacturers, Elgin, Hamilton, and Waltham, and switched to Swiss movements as early as the 1940s in their wristwatches. The Waltham Watch Company complied immediately with the requirements of Ball’s guidelines, later followed by Elgin National Watch Company and most of the other American manufacturers: Aurora, Hamilton, Hampden, E. Howard & Co., Illinois, Seth Thomas, later on joined by some Swiss watch manufacturers: Audemars Piguet, Gallet, Longines, Record Watch, Vacheron Constantin.
Webb C. Ball became the vice president of the Hamilton Watch Company and focused his efforts on developing watches for the railroads. On February 10, 1907, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers honored his efforts by appointing Ball as an honorary member.
They were the first wrist watch allowed to be used on the Railroads, (using a Swiss manual wind movement) followed quickly by the first American made wrist watch on “the roads”, Elgin.
The firm was family owned by direct descendants until the 1990s when the right to use the name was sold. The new firm continues the tradition, using Swiss-made (primarily ETA) movements and making watches for sportsmen and even for some small railroads.
At the end of his career, Webb C. Ball was overseeing over 125,000 miles of rail tracks in the U.S.A., Mexico & Canada, having greatly contributed to the safety of all railroad systems. The Horological Institute of America celebrated his efforts on October 20, 1921. He died in 1922.
Ball Watch Company
Approximate Serial Numbers and Dates
|Ball – Hamilton||Ball – Waltham||Ball – Illinois|
|1910||600,000||1925||B 270,000||Ball – E. Howard|
|1920||B 610,000||Ball – Elgin||1895||308,000|
|1935||B 641,000||1906||12,282,000||Ball – Hampden|